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In Bishkek, one of the world’s most polluted cities, Kyrgyz environmental activist and artist Cholpon Alamanova has found an innovative way to combat toxic fumes caused by burning textile waste. Alamanova is turning trash into treasure by using a traditional patchwork sewing technique called kurak to create clothes, blankets, and accessories from discarded materials.
Garments are a significant industry in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian nation of 7 million people. However, manufacturers frequently dispose of scrap material in landfills outside the capital, Bishkek. These scraps are then burned or scavenged to heat homes, contributing to the city’s already toxic air, mainly due to widespread coal use.
Alamanova’s workshop has become part of the global “trashion” movement, which encourages using recycled, repurposed, and discarded materials to create garments, jewelry, and art. By transforming textile waste into beautiful and functional items, she and her team are helping to reduce air pollution and revive the traditional kurak technique.
Alamanova’s passion for her work is evident: “Every single item that we make with students imparts a very pleasant feeling that at least for a tiny bit, we have made Kyrgyzstan cleaner, and helped maintain the purity of its air, water and land.” With more than 80 women on her team, ranging in age from 25 to 79, they have already processed 300 kg (661 pounds) of fabric in just a few months. Their efforts have gained public recognition for combating Pollution and popularizing kurak.
The impact of Alamanova’s work has even transcended borders. Her creations were displayed at an art show in neighboring Kazakhstan, inspiring Kazakh women to follow in her footsteps. One of her Kazakh students has vowed to start a similar project in their country, showcasing the potential for such initiatives to spread and create positive change across regions.
As global citizens, we can all learn from Alamanova’s example and seek creative ways to promote sustainability in our communities. Whether embracing the “trashion” movement, supporting local artisans using eco-friendly materials, or finding new ways to recycle and repurpose waste, our actions can make a difference.
So let’s all take a moment to appreciate the ingenuity of individuals like Cholpon Alamanova and consider how we can contribute to a cleaner, greener world. Start by educating yourself and those around you about sustainable practices, and be mindful of the products you consume. We can tackle Pollution and preserve our planet’s precious resources for future generations.
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